There will always be times in your life when you remember exactly where you were when something really special happened. You may remember the location and the name of the person with whom you shared your first kiss. (Alexandria, Va., and it was Meredith). Maybe it's the date when you realized that anything was possible. Or perhaps it was the very first words when you spoke when you entered this world. And sometimes, you find yourself at a unique place and time when the environment around you completely changes...and not for the better.
Unbeknownst to the many members who attended the National Stuttering Association conference in Cleveland, little did we know that on Thursday, July 7. we were all going to be seeing history of our own. This was to be the day that LeBron James, the greatest basketball player now in the National Basketball Association, was going to announce his plans on live television. An entire city was holding its breath....and the police had set up potential riot units by the Quicken Loans Arena just in case dire circumstances were to take place. And at 9 p.m. that evening, 300+ people stormed the hotel bar just itching to get a good spot to see everything. "Hey, turn it up!" "He's going to New York!" were but a few of the comments being uttered. Yet ten minutes later, the resignation became rampant. "Miami," was the only statement being tossed around. The very next day, as I was having breakfast at Karl's Inn of the Barristers by the Cuyahoga County Courthouse, I was intently focused on the cover of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, and one word just said it all: "Gone."
But as I was reading the scathing editorials and fan reaction, I couldn't help but think about one angle that had been critically explored. The legacy of what LeBron was leaving behind, and the very important lesson to be shared from this. It took me almost 25 years of my life to learn this, as I am 32 now, but it means more to me now than when I first understood the concept. Plain and simple, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU.
When you're in your teen years, it seems like every little negative experience is magnified. Lord knows I had too many of them as it was. The denial of being able to volunteer in class, the feeling that my stuttering had made me feel so worthless that I didn't even deserve to go to the prom or participate in activities. You begin to feel hatred and anger taking over, and eventually it gets to the point where you say "It's all about me. I'm in it for me, and no one else." It does feel good to say that at first....but then before you know it, you alienate everyone else and you find those are the same people who root for you to fail, because you can't respect them.
I enjoy giving so much of my heart and soul to the National Stuttering Association. It is the greatest love of my life and it always will be. But above all else, whenever I speak to SLP classes, whenever I meet new people who don't know anything about stuttering and I share with them my thoughts, I make it paramount that the NSA is not about me. It never has been, and never will be. It's about a movement of freedom and tolerance. It's about a group of people coming together to share how they can make each other's lives a little better. It can be so easy to turn on the news today and see negative stories about elected officials and other things that bother us. But one thing can be said: Never doubt that a group of people can change the world.......I'm just one part of an NSA Nation that is doing so.
My name is Steven Kaufman and I am a person that stutters. Until next time, stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard.